Man held in death had escaped federal prosecution
As Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton notes today, the city's mayor wants the feds to prosecute as many gun cases as they can. And the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office likes to brag that even being a felon caught with bullets can get you 15 years:
"It's a new day," a billboard touting this fact reads.
With a 97 percent conviction rate, and sentences that mean what they say (no parole here), the tough measures are designed to scare criminals straight. But as Justin discovered, a 97 percent conviction rate is not 100 percent, and every once in a while a defendant gets indicted in the federal system and still walks free.
That someone is Umar Burley (left). He's the 39-year-old suspected driver of a car that Baltimore police were trying to stop earlier this week on a drug case in Northwest Baltimore when it rammed into a 1999 Acura driven by 86-year-old Elbert Davis, the father of a city police officer. Police said they found 32 grams of suspected heroin on the passenger side of Burley's car.
Davis died from his injuries, the painful aftermath of the city's dangerous drug trade hitting close to home for Baltimore police (complete details of the case here). Burley and the passenger in his car have been charged with drug offenses; Burley could face a manslaughter charge.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein told Justin that last year's federal gun case against Burley was dismissed when a co-defendant accepted responsibility for a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol.
Still, dropping charges in the federal system is unusual, where prosecutors can carefully choose their cases and an indictment typically means a conviction is all but certain. Rosenstein admitted to Justin that it was "very rare that we have reason to reconsider a charging decision."